Serenity Sometimes

Embracing the chaos one day at a time. A blog about my adventures in food, photography, fitness and fun.


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A Hike Amongst Waterfalls

This past Saturday I went hiking with a group of friends in Lehigh Gorge State Park, near Jim Thorpe, PA. We followed the Glen Onoko Falls trail to the top, and along the way enjoyed the sights, including numerous waterfalls, gorgeous plant life and rock formations, all culminating in a spectacular view of the valley below.

Warning at the start of the hike.

I think the sign is a little bit of an exaggeration. I had a great time trying to climb up and over rock formations but never once felt overwhelmed or overly exerted. I would not recommend wearing flip flops and stopping to smoke every 10 minutes, which I observed with some of the other hikers that day… FLIP FLOPS! Really? We did take a lot of breaks to stop and take pictures though, so maybe if I would have done it without stopping I would have been more fatigued.

One of the smaller “waterfalls” at the start of the hike

I love hiking and being in the woods. Even on a hot day, which this was, it stays cool and shaded underneath the trees.

So up and up we climbed until we came to our first substantial waterfall.

Do you see that rope hanging down the right side of the falls? That’s because there were some people rappelling!

This makes me want to learn how to rock climb. Granted, I have a crippling fear of heights, but that’s how we conquer our fears, right? Maybe I could try it first in a controlled environment like a rock climbing gym. Let’s put that on the bucket list.

Onward and upward to the next waterfall!

“Chameleon Falls”

I found a very cool looking, and also cool temperature spot underneath an overcrop of rock that was just spritzing water down over moss covered rocks. Underneath in the shade, a nice crop of ferns grew. I just love ferns.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a good spot.

And here we have it, the view that you didn’t even know you’ve been waiting for!

Behind this overlook, there was water running over giant stones, and a shaded spot where you could sit and dip your hands and feet (and whatever else I guess) into the crystal clear water.

The next waterfall was fun. There was a path that led behind the falls so you could stand behind and feel the mist. I so wanted to go behind and take a picture looking out but it was slippery and wet and I only have one camera… my precious… and if anything happened to her I would cry many tears. But it would have been a cool shot.

I think my favorite picture might be this one I took of a fallen log left to grow moss, and bathe in the stream until it breaks apart and drifts down the mountain some day.

A wonderful day to be active, take pictures, enjoy nature and spend time with friends.

What are some of your favorite outdoor activities?


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The Open Road

Some Amish folks on their way home from church

One evening last year on a whim, in which there may or may not have been alcohol involved, my brother-in-law purchased a Groupon for his wife, my husband and myself to go on a scooter tour of Lancaster County covered bridges. We were originally scheduled to take the tour last fall, but it happened to be during hurricane Sandy. Needless to say it was cancelled, and this Sunday my husband, brother and sister-in-law and I finally cashed it in.

I seriously want a scooter now – How cute is this?

We had a surprisingly awesome time and the scooters were so much fun to drive. I totally want one now. I also had fun giving the signature “biker wave” to all the legit Harley people that passed us as we cruised the back country roads. I’m sure they were so jealous of how cool we looked.

Biker wave re-enactment

Biker wave re-enactment

The scenery was beautiful and it was a perfect, sunny day. We covered about 40 miles throughout the area and stopped at 3 of the only remaining covered bridges of Lancaster County.

Does this horse look pregnant or is it just me?

About half way through the tour, one of the guys in our group got a flat tire and I had to hop on the back of Brad’s scooter, since he had one of the only ones that rode two people. I was pretty bummed, but it ended up being hilarious. We had to go up this huge hill at literally 6 mph top speed. It was just like that scene from Dumb and Dumber. I think a horse and buggy passed us.

All in all it was a pretty great day. I will leave you with a few more pictures. Enjoy!


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Ridin’ Dirty

Nice view from one of the bike trails at Blue Marsh

Yesterday after work I came home with plans to go for a quick 45 minute run on my treadmill in the air conditioned comfort of my house. We are finally starting to get up in to what I consider to be summer temperatures – 90 degrees, humidity, etc. I am admittedly a total wuss when it comes to exercising in hot temperatures. I just hate it. I’m pretty sure my body doesn’t cool itself properly (i.e. sweat enough). Also, I should mention that nothing that my husband does is moderate. If we go for a run, he is running 2 miles ahead of me at 8 mph while I huff and puff trying and failing to keep up with him. Therefore, a bike ride is not just a lazy roll through the neighborhood, but a mountain trek through dense underbrush, over roots and rocks, up treacherous hills and down dangerously sloping trails. But, I’m always up for a challenge. And for the record, just because I’m up for it doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to whine incessantly about it while it’s happening. So there.

Bike Ride

So off we went into the wilderness. It was a great workout and I do love the feeling of riding through the forest, underneath the tall trees. Even though I had to stop and walk my bike up at least a dozen hills, Brad still tells me I did a great job. I didn’t fall once, although I would probably ride off the edge of a cliff with a death grip on my bike rather than falling off it, I am that scared to fall. I have some bruises and scrapes on my legs and I found a tick on me after our ride (EEK!) but other than that I am still in one piece.

Note to self: next time bring bug spray and cover myself in bubble wrap.


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Testing My Limits

Photo courtesy of Tim Harrison, Simply Scuba

As dusk settles, we walk through the chilly air and ease ourselves down into the murky water. Our first mission is to descend down a line to a platform at 25 feet before moving on to our first stop, a school bus submerged at about 35 feet below the surface. As soon as I put my regulator in my mouth and my mask drops below the waterline, I know I am going to be in for a challenging dive. If I hold out my hand all the way in front of my face, I would be hard pressed to see it, that’s how bad the visibility is. As I grab hold of the line that would lead us down the gently sloping bottom of the lake to the platform, I fumble with my dive light and try to avoid banging into the bottom, kicking up even more silt, as if it were possible to make the visibility any worse than it already is. The whole time my eyes are glued to my dive instructor just a couple feet ahead of me, I know if I let him out of my sight I might not find him again. My husband brings up the rear.

As our dive instructor (Brent) and I finally arrive to the platform, it already feels like the longest dive of my life and I’m only 2 minutes in. Just relax, I tell myself, as I kneel at the platform, check  my depth, and get my bearings. I give Brent the OK signal and turn around to my husband. Except one thing, he’s not there. He hasn’t come down the line. We both look up the line and shine our lights, but with practically no visibility the lights don’t do much good.  They reflect off the silt much like using your high beams in dense fog. I look for some movement in the line… nothing. Brent looks at me and motions to go back up the line to see if we can find him. So I let him take the lead as we work our way back up. We get back to the surface and no sign of him. We try to look for bubbles but it’s hard to see in the waning light of nightfall. Again, I breathe and tell myself to relax. My husband Brad knows what to do, he knows to come to the surface if we get separated. So we wait for what feels like an eternity. I’m just about to start freaking out when his head breaks the surface about 30 feet from us. What a way to start a dive.

After making some brief nervous jokes about finally being able to cash in on my husband’s life insurance policy, we make some quick changes in the dive plan, and descend one more time. This time we go down a vertical line directly to the bus, which ends up being much easier. Brent takes a wreck reel, which is basically a line on a spindle that gets attached to the wreck throughout various points. You follow this line to get through the wreck without getting lost. In most cases it’s just a formality to use this, since you can see the whole way through the wreck. In the case of this particular dive, it was literally a lifesaver. Brent takes off through the bus and we follow, not pleasant, but not terrible. The space is wide open enough inside the gutted out bus to allow for a little wiggle room and some visibility. And it’s pretty much a straight shot to get out through what used to be the emergency exit.

Visibility was even worse than this!

Visibility was even worse than this!

We follow a few more lines and check out one other little boat on our way to our main objective for the dive: A sunken 72 foot wooden sailboat named “The Quest”. I don’t even see the schooner  until she almost hits me in the face, but nonetheless, we are going to have to go through her. Brent motions for us to stay put while he runs the wreck reel through. He quickly disappears into a 4×4′ hole in the bow, and we wait for what seems like an eternity. The entire time I am just freaking myself out more and more and have pretty much decided there is no way on God’s green Earth that I am going down into that hole. I try to peer down in side and I can see nothing but cloudy blackness. I’m looking at my husband and shaking my head “no” but he’s ignoring me. Apparently he’s dealing with his own issues. My breathing is becoming heavier and I can feel a slight wave of panic starting to wash it’s way over me. But there is absolutely no way I can let that happen. I tell my brain to shut up. Brent comes back around and gives me the signal to go down into the wreck. Here goes nothing!

I grip the line of the wreck reel, position my fins over the hole, and slowly drop down into the abyss. I see literally nothing but a cloud of silt. I hold my light just inches from the line that runs along the ceiling, and I start swimming forward. Just follow the line. So I follow the line for what feels like an hour, just focusing on that little orange piece of string, holding on to it with my free hand, with a death grip on my light in the opposite hand. Finally I see a lighter area and know I am approaching the exit. I made it! I start to swim up and out. But as I do that I feel a tug on the back of my tank. I’m caught on something. Oh my God the wreck reel line is snagged on the valve of my tank! Are you freaking kidding me?! I think I had a moment there where I was sure this was it, the end – Sayonara. Then I gave myself another mental bitch slap and told myself to pull it together. I give another quick tug and realized that going up and out is not going to happen so I drop back down into the hole in the stern. I think “I’ll just wait here until my husband comes through and he will see that I am caught and help me.” But before that can happen, I see Brent coming to untangle me. I swear in that moment he looked like an angel descending from heaven.

The rest of the dive was pretty much uneventful, my husband made it through unscathed, and we slowly made our way back to the surface and to dry land. I can’t say it was an enjoyable experience, but it was a huge challenge and to be honest, I’m pretty impressed with myself that I maintained the composure to complete it. I wasn’t sure that I had it in me, but now I know that I do. Brent said that if we can dive in those conditions, we can dive anything, and I agree that it has definitely made me a better, more confident diver. What’s more – I think I am even a braver and stronger person than I ever thought I was. I really surprised myself.

So that’s how my husband and I got our Night and Limited Visibility Diving certification on Friday night.

Dive Site: Willow Springs Park

Visibility: 2 feet

Water Temp: 55ºF

Time: 7:30 PM EST

This is Brad and me diving in Turks & Caicos. Visibility is about a million times better than Willow.

When is the last time you pushed your own limits? Have you ever surprised yourself by exceeding the limits of what you thought you were capable of?